Edward Joseph Snowden (born June 21, 1983) is a computer professional, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and former contractor for the US Government who presumably copied classified information from the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and United Kingdom Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) for public disclosure in 2013 without prior authorization. The information revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many run by the NSA and Five Eyes with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments.
Snowden was hired by Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor, in 2013 after previous employment with Dell and the CIA. On May 20, 2013, Snowden flew to Hong Kong after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii and in early June he revealed thousands of classified NSA documents to journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill. Snowden came to international attention after stories based on the material appeared in The Guardian and The Washington Post. Further disclosures were made by other newspapers including Der Spiegel and The New York Times.
On June 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed charges against Snowden of two counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of US Government or foreign government property. On June 23, he flew to Moscow, Russia, where he reportedly remained for over a month. Later that summer, Russian authorities granted him one-year asylum, which was later extended to three years. As of 2015, he was still living in an undisclosed location in Russia while seeking asylum elsewhere.
A subject of controversy, Snowden has been variously called a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a patriot, and a traitor. His disclosures have fueled debates over mass surveillance, government secrecy, and the balance between national security and information privacy.